3 Potential Landing Spots for Sam Gagner

Sam Gagner is one of the top free-agent forwards still looking for a new home for the upcoming season. In 81 games in 2021-22 with the Detroit Red Wings, he had a solid 13 goals and 31 points. Although he wasn’t dominant, he can still provide decent offense in a bottom-six role and should be able to land an NHL contract for this season. Here are three teams that I consider to be potential landing spots.

Edmonton Oilers

A reunion between Gagner and the Edmonton Oilers is certainly a possibility. Kurt Leavins of the Edmonton Journal recently reported that the Oilers have talked with the veteran forward, so perhaps something could come out of this (from ‘Could the 3rd time be a charm for the Edmonton Oilers and Sam Gagner: 9 Things,’ Edmonton Journal, 8/13/22). General manager (GM) Ken Holland has said that he is hoping to bring in another depth forward before the beginning of the season, and Gagner fits that description perfectly.

Sam Gagner, Edmonton Oilers
Sam Gagner during one of his stints with the Edmonton Oilers (THW Archives)

Looking at Edmonton’s roster, it’s fair to assume that Gagner would be competing for a spot in their bottom six. This is especially true given that the team has received criticism over the years for their lack of center depth after Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. So, bringing in another NHL-caliber option like Gagner would be a smart idea, even more so if he can continue to be a solid secondary scorer in 2022-23.

Financially, the Oilers are a bit jammed, and they also have to re-sign restricted free agent (RFA) Ryan McLeod, so they might be forced to move out some salary if they want to bring Gagner back on a one-way deal. Potential trade candidates to make this happen include Warren Foegele ($2.75 million cap hit) and Tyson Barrie ($4.5 million cap hit). At the end of the day, it could be worthwhile if it means adding Gagner to their forward group.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Fellow THW writer Shane Seney recently raised the point that the Toronto Maple Leafs should make a push for Gagner. I share that opinion because the Maple Leafs could also use another depth forward before the start of the season. Gagner would be a good replacement for Jason Spezza, given his immense amount of NHL experience. Furthermore, after the team also lost Ondrej Kase to free agency, it wouldn’t hurt to have Gagner as a potential right-wing option, too.

Related: 3 Potential Landing Spots for Tyler Motte

Gagner would again be fighting for a spot in Toronto’s bottom six. The 33-year-old has the potential to compete for the third-line center role with David Kampf, but, at worst, he would be an upgrade over recently signed Adam Gaudette for their fourth-line center spot. With the Maple Leafs looking to make a push for the Stanley Cup, it wouldn’t be bad for them to add Gagner for a bit of insurance.

Even if Gagner is open to a league-minimum contract, the Maple Leafs would need to move out salary. They are currently over the cap and have to re-sign RFA Rasmus Sandin. As a result, players like Alex Kerfoot ($3.5 million cap hit) and Justin Holl ($2 million) have been considered potential trade candidates. Trading at least one of them would provide the organization with more than enough space to re-sign Sandin and bring in Gagner. We’ll see if this is something GM Kyle Dubas is open to exploring.

Detroit Red Wings

I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Gagner returning to the Red Wings in 2022-23. The London, Ontario native was an excellent fit in Detroit and proved to be an outstanding leader during their rebuild, so it would be wise for GM Steve Yzerman to consider bringing Gagner back.

Sam Gagner Detroit Red Wings
Sam Gagner, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It is always wise for rebuilding teams to have veterans to help mentor their prospects and young players. Gagner, who has 967 games of NHL experience, fits that description and has already done well in that role as a Red Wing. He would also provide Detroit with better secondary scoring, as his 31 points in 81 games show effectively and be another option for their second power-play unit.

Unlike the two teams above, the Red Wings would have zero trouble signing Gagner to a league-minimum contract for the season. Even after their summer of spending, they still have over $9 million of cap space left and only need to re-sign one RFA, Filip Zadina. Given that Gagner was well respected in their locker room, Yzerman should really consider bringing back the grizzled veteran for one last year.

We’ll have to wait and see if Gagner ends up on one of these teams for the 2022-23 season. With the Oilers reportedly in communication with the veteran, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up there. However, that doesn’t mean we should rule out the Maple Leafs and Red Wings, either.


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